Monday, February 27, 2012

Spinach and Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

While Jason and I were in New York last December we shared the most amazing meatballs as an appetizer one night at a restaurant called Tre Dici . Typically ordering meatballs would not be at the top of my list but then again, I haven't seen meatballs stuffed with ooey gooey cheese either. And lets face it, I LOVE anything that has cheese inside. Since that wonderful meal I have often thought about recreating that dish and last night was the night! I like to say these meatballs are made with love because they require some time to assemble but they are well worth every minute of it.

Spinach and Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs
(Recipe makes 24 Meatballs)

- 1 lb. ground pork
- 1 lb. lean ground beef
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons Parsley
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 10 oz. box frozen chopped spinach
- salt and pepper to taste

- Defrost the spinach in the microwave and drain of any liquid. Once it is cooled mix together the spinach, mozzarella, salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside.
- Combine the first 8 ingredients (everything except for the mozzarella and spinach) in a large bowl, mixing together really well.  I find that your hands are the best tool for this:). Season with salt and pepper.
- Grab a small portion of the meat mixture and begin forming the bottom of your meatballs. Using your finger make a small indention in the center for the cheese mixture.

- Once you have formed the bottom half of the meatballs and stuffed them with the spinach and cheese mixture, grab another small amount of the meat to place over top. Using your hands place the meat around the cheese mixture until it is all covered up (or as best as possible) and formed into a ball.

- Bake in the oven on 400 for 20 -25 minutes.
- Use your favorite marinara sauce to serve on the side.

And of course you can't have meatballs without the spaghetti.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

This elegant salad is full of flavor and texture, bringing a burst of color to your dinner table. If you love butternut squash then you will love this salad. Trust me!

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
Serves 8-10 people
- 2 -8 oz bags of spring mix greens
- 1/2 cup of crumbled goat cheese
- 1 bag of trail mix ( mixed nuts, dried fruits, Cranberries, and Raisin's)
- 1 medium sized butternut squash

- Peel, cut and dice the butternut squash into small pieces. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven on 400 for 35-40 minutes. Let the squash cool before adding it to the salad.
- In a large bowl add the spring mix, goat cheese, roasted butternut squash (cooled), and the bag of trail mix.

Creamy Balsamic Dressing
(Recipe adapted from Paula)

- 1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar

- Mix ingredients and store in the refrigerator
**Makes about 5 oz. **

Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Biggest Fan

Yesterday I found myself with four ultra ripe bananas (which never happens in our house) so instead of letting them go to waste I decided to make Banana Bread. In order to keep it healthy like I did with the Pumpkin Bread I made last week I used whole-wheat flour and left out the sugar. Ripe bananas add plenty of natural sweetness so I knew even without the sugar it would have the perfect amount of sweetnesss for my taste. Especially after I add Biscoff Spread on top;).

Shortly after I took the bread out of the oven my sister-n-law, niece and nephew arrived to spend the afternoon with me. Let's just say someone was a big fan of the Banana Bread.

Whole-Wheat Banana Bread
- 1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 Cup of honey
- 3-4 Ripe bananas
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 eggs

- Combine flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl.
- Add in the honey, vegetable oil, yogurt, and eggs. Mix with the dry ingredients.
- In a seperate bowl mash up the bananas and fold in with the other ingredients
- Pour mixture into a greased loaf pan and Bake on 350 for 40-45 minutes.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Shrimp Tacos

This is a fast, flavorful, and healthy meal perfect for a busy weeknight dinner. All you need are a few simple ingredients, most of which you probably have on hand, to make it all come together. Looks like a Win Win to me!

I used the Mission Artisan Style Corn and Whole Wheat Blend Tortillas, which provided the perfect taste and texture for the tacos once they were toasted in the oven

The baja sauce that is drizzled on top is the icing on the cake for these tacos. Like I mentioned before, I like to experiment with ingredients that we already have in the house so I chose to add a sweet chili sauce in with the other ingredients. I know it may sound crazy but the chili sauce added a tangy flavor from the blend of peppers, garlic and spices used, really completing the Baja Sauce.

Baja Sauce
- 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup low fat mayonnaise
- 1/2 teaspoon dill
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 3 1/2 teaspoons Asian Sauce

Mix all the ingredients together.

Ingredients for Shrimp Tacos
- 1 package of corn tortillas ( I used Mission Artisan Style Corn and Whole Wheat Blend)
- 1 pound of shrimp
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more if you really like it spicy)
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- Juice from half of a lime
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 head of cabbage, shredded
- 1 Avacodo, cut and sliced
- Baja sauce (Recipe above)

Season shrimp with the red pepper flakes, thyme, lime juice, salt and pepper. Let it sit for a few minutes before cooking it in the skillet with a drizzle of olive oil.

While the shrimp is cooking, heat the tortillas in the oven (about 3 minutes) to get them warm and crispy. When the shrimp is done fill the center of the tortilla shells with shrimp, avacodo, cabbage and top with the Baja Sauce.
**Served with a side of black beans (that my husband included inside of his tacos:))

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pumpkin Bread

I came across this quick bread recipe while flipping through some of Phyllis's recipes. I absolutely love Pumpkin Bread and thought this would be a nice change from some of our more typical breakfast foods. I remembered reading this blog post recently that had a few alternatives for making a healthier quick bread. I replaced half of the vegetable oil with plain Greek yogurt and I replaced half of the all purpose flour with whole wheat flour. In addition to these changes I decided to leave out some of the sugar since I typically spread peanut butter on top before eating it anyway. The Pumpkin Bread turned out incredibly moist and it had just the right amount of sweetness for a morning breakfast. Included is the original recipe along with my substitutions. This recipe makes two loaves so you can always freeze the other one if you don't need it right away.

Pumpkin Bread
- 3 1/2 cups of flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3 cups of sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 cups pumpkin
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup nuts or dates (optional)
- 4 eggs
**Mix all the ingredients together and pour into two loaf pans. Bake on 350 for 1 hour.

"Healthier" Pumpkin Bread
- 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (I didn't have nutmeg on hand)
- 2 Cups of pumpkin (I used both 15oz.cans)
- 4 Eggs
- 3/4 cup water
****Mix all the ingredients together and pour into two loaf pans. Bake on 350 for 1 hour.

Before eating I recommend putting the sliced pumpkin bread in the toaster and adding Biscoff Spread on top. (You can also do peanut butter). It will forever change the way you eat pumpkin bread.:)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Sweet Memory

I fell in love with Rice Pudding while Jason and I were on our honeymoon in the Dominican Republic. It reminds me of our first night having dinner overlooking the ocean, at what would end up being our favorite restaurant. This is where I ordered it for the first time (ever), after seeing it featured on the dessert menu. From that moment on, a special bond was formed. :)
Blue Marlin in Cap Cana

I have not had rice pudding since our honeymoon so when I came across it in the Cooking Light Magazine (and a healthy version at that!) you can imagine my excitement. Instead of making this dish for dessert I imagined this sweet, warm and creamy pudding would be wonderful for breakfast. I gave it a try this morning and was immediately taken back to sandy beaches and crystal blue water. Instead of topping my rice pudding with pistachios like the recipe called for I decided to use blueberries in its place.

Warm Coconut Rice Pudding
**Recipe adapted from Maureen Callahan, , January 2012**
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup uncooked instant rice
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk (I used Almond milk)
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 cup light coconut milk
- 1/4 cup flaked sweetened coconut
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- blueberries (optional)
  1.  Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in rice; cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat; uncover. Set aside.
  2.  Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a small bowl.
  3. Combine 1/4 cup milk and yolks in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add sugar mixture to milk mixture, stirring with a whisk until blended.
  4. Bring remaining 1 1/4 cups milk and coconut milk to a boil in a small saucepan. Gradually add hot milk mixture to yolk mixture, stirring with a whisk. Return milk mixture to pan. Bring to a boil, and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in cooked rice, coconut, and next 2 ingredients. Top with blueberries.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Avocado and Basil Pesto

As promised, here is the recipe for the pesto sauce that I made Saturday night. This pesto is perfect to use with bread, pizza, pasta, etc. We almost always have these ingredients on hand, making it easy to put together a delicious and healthy weeknight meal.

Avocado and Basil Pesto
- 6 cups fresh spinach
- 2 Avocados, peeled and seeded
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 2 teaspoon worchestire sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- salt and pepper

- Add all the ingredients above into a food processor. Blend until smooth.

Avocado and Basil Pesto Pasta with Goat Cheese
- Make Pesto sauce above
- Cook 1 pound of Spaghetti noodles until tender. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain noodles
- Add noodles to a bowl and top with the Avocado and Basil Pesto. Add the pasta water as needed, to loosen the sauce. Sprinkle with Goat cheese.

Corn Chowder with a Kick

I have always referred to this soup as Corn Chowder but I feel that because of the addition of the sausage it puts a different spin on it. When I asked Jason what I should call it he said, " A bowl full of awesomeness, perfect for a cold winter's night". Obviously that won't work so for lack of a more creative title I am calling it Corn Chowder with Chicken Sausage.This recipe makes A TON of soup, making it perfect for a crowd or to have around as leftovers. We had more than enough to eat on throughout the week so I was also able to freeze a portion of it as well.

Corn Chowder with Chicken Sausage

- 1lb hot Chicken Sausage
- 1lb Sweet Chicken Sausage
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cans regular corn
- 2 cans creamed corn
- 2 cans diced tomatoes
- 3 cans low fat evaporated milk
- 5 red potatoes, diced
- 1 1/2- 2 1/2 tsp basil

-Saute the sausage and onion in a large skillet. Chop the sausage once it has been cooked.
-Combine the rest of ingredients into a large pot. Add in the cooked sausage and onion. Simmer for 35-40 minutes or until ready to serve.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cheese Ball

Happy Valentine's Day! Jason and I celebrated this past weekend with dinner at Barrington's (my favorite) Friday night and we spent Saturday together looking for furniture and cooking for each other. Today I spent the day with my other love.

Last week it was my turn to host wine book club so after flipping through some of Phyllis's recipes I came across this cheese ball.This is a recipe that Jason's mom acquired from her best friend and Jason's godmother, Delores.  I was surprised by how easy this was to make and unlike other cheese ball recipes that I have seen before this one only calls for one type of cheese. We had lunch with Delores on Sunday and I told her that I made her cheese ball for my girlfriends and everyone loved it so I don't think she will mind me sharing it with you.

Cheese Ball
- 2 -8oz packages of cream cheese (I used the reduced fat)
- 1 -8oz. can crushed pineapple- drained
- 1/2 cup chopped green peppers
- 2 Tablespoons onion
- Lowery's seasoning salt (About a Teaspoon but you can use as much or as little as you like)
- 1 Cup of chopped nuts

Mix all of the ingredients together except for the nuts. Roll in a ball and refrigerate. Before serving coat the outside with chopped nuts
**I made the cheese ball a day ahead then wrapped it in saran wrap to keep in the fridge.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Chef's in Training

Occasionally Jason and I will get the urge to experiment in the kitchen using ingredients that we already have on hand. Saturday night was one of those nights. While we were out running errands we stopped by Reid's to grab some meat to go along with our creations. Of course I could not walk in without looking around first so after grabbing this amazing spread and tasting some wine we decided on a fillet and two fish kabobs for Jason to put on the grill. I decided that I would tackle the sides while Jason took care of the meat and a dessert.

I put together a salad while brainstorming the ingredients for the other side. This is where the creativity came in for my part of the meal. I put on a pot of water to boil some whole wheat Gnocchi then added the following ingredients into the food processor to make a sauce to put over top.

I am going to make some minor adjustments to this recipe before I share it but we were both very pleased with the way it turned out. I have a feeling this is only the beginning of this sauce in the Key house.

Once Jason put together a marinade for the steak he got started on the dessert. He decided to make a parfait once he began gathering his ingredients. We received a gift basket for Christmas that included these cookies

so he grabbed a few of those along with some Oreos and put them in the food processor (separately). Once those were crushed he started laying the layers for the parfait. Starting from the bottom up he put
- Oreo cookie crumbs
- Vanilla Greek Yogurt
- Blueberry's
- Kaneel Sterren cookie crumbs
- Strawberry's
- Vanilla Greek Yogurt
- Toasted Coconut

Once the meat came off of the grill dinner was served.

Before serving the dessert Jason melted together Nutella and the Biscoff Spread to drizzle on top of the Parfait
Check out that yumminess on top :)

Not only is this a fun and inexpensive date night but its also the perfect way to clean out the pantry and refrigerator. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Moussaka is a classic Greek dish that consist of layers of eggplant, ground meat (usually lamb) in a tomato sauce and topped with a creamy white sauce. I found this recipe in a magazine and immediately tore it out,  not because I was familiar with this famous Greek casserole, but because of the generous amount of vegetables that it called for. If you are familiar with the traditional taste of Moussaka then I must warn you that this recipe will be a bit different. Since we had never tasted the traditional Moussaka before Jason decided to order it while visiting London and we found that it had a sweeter taste. But trust me, this recipe is still very good AND the ingredients used reduces the calories by more than half compared to the real thing by tripling the amount of veggies and using less of a lower fat meat. For the white sauce that goes on top use low-fat cottage cheese for the extra protein.

Click the link above for the recipe. I used ground chicken instead of lean ground beef and have also tried it using ground turkey. If you can't find the gruyere cheese you can use swiss cheese instead.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Trip to California- Lake Tahoe Recap

We left the wine country Tuesday afternoon and headed to Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe to do some skiing for a few days. We stayed at the Village at Squaw Valley, where we were able to spend the rest of our vacation relaxing. Before checking in to our condo we stopped by the store to load up on groceries for the rest of the week. After a full day of skiing we all agreed that it would be nice to make dinner in and just relax in the condo, which is exactly what we did.

The perfect ending to a wonderful vacation.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Trip to California- Sonoma recap Part 2

Monday was a fun filled day of visiting different wineries and participating in lots of tastings. We had appointments at Pride, Rombauer, and Gloria Ferrer and had just enough time for another stop at Cuvaison (which none of us had ever heard of but loved) before heading back to the Inn.

We had dinner reservations at  The Girl and The Fig, which was highly recommended by several people. We ordered the mussels and a cheese plate to share among the four of us.

For my entree I ordered the Seared Striped Bass which of course was delicious.
(I didn't realize it at the time but up to this point in our trip I had ordered fish every night. :) )We were all completely exhausted once dinner was over so we headed back to the Inn to crash in the bed. After we stopped to take this picture.

Before leaving for Tahoe on Tuesday we stopped by two more wineries on the way out (as if we had not tasted enough wine already:)). We had some time to spare before our wine and cheese pairing at Artesa so we stopped into Domain Carneros, which was located right across the road. I didn't realize when I ordered the sparkling wine tasting that it included 3 full glasses. (oops)

If you have any plans to visit the wine country I highly recommend going to Artesa and doing the Vino con Queso tasting. During this experience we were able to pair some of the limited release and reserve wines with artisan cheeses. Our guide was very helpful and I learned a lot about preparing a cheese plate based on certain wines. Not only did Jason and I enjoy this experience but we also loved the wine so much that we are now members of their wine club. What can I say they stole my heart when I walked into the room and saw this...

Trip to California- Sonoma recap Part 1

We left for Sonoma Sunday morning in time to grab lunch before our wine tasting at Gundlach Bundschu. I fell in love with Sonoma the moment we arrived and I could not wait to begin exploring the wine country. We had lunch at the Sunflower Caffe, located in downtown Sonoma, where we were able to eat lunch in the outdoor garden.

We had a barrel tasting scheduled at Gundlach Bundschu so once lunch was over we headed that way. During the barrel tasting we were able to taste developing wines straight from the barrels to get an idea of how the wine making team selects and uses the barrels. We were able to taste the difference between a French Oak barrel and an American Oak barrel that contained the same kind of grape and it was very cool to see how different they were.  (I personally liked the French barrel the best).

After the tasting Jennifer and Ian headed back to San Francisco as we made our way back into downtown Sonoma to check into the Inn we were staying at. We arrived just in time for happy hour so we grabbed some cheese and crackers and a glass of wine and sat by the fire. It was bliss.

Once we were able to peel ourselves away from the fire we stopped in here for another happy hour.       

Oysters baked with breadcrumbs, Parmesan, spinach and pancetta

We ate dinner at an Italian restaurant that was recommended by the Inn before crashing into bed for some much needed sleep.